The Hidden Imam

In his speech before the United Nations last fall, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prayed that Allah (God) might usher in the era of the “Hidden Imam.” It was a curious remark that at the time I filed away and resolved to research later. Well, it’s later. The “end times” to be precise, for the Hidden Imam is an eschatological figure in Islam that will bring about a new world order:

“The Hidden Imam … will eventually leave his Greater Occultation and appear (zuhur) to the world of humanity. This return is the most significant event in the future for the Shi’ite faithful and has thunderous eschatological consequences. This return will occur shortly before the Final Judgement [sic] and the end of history. Imam Mahdi will return at the head of the forces of righteousness and do battle with the forces of evil in one, final, apocalyptic battle.” (There’s more where that came from….)

Sound familiar? It helps to explain why President Ahmadinejad sounds about as nutty as Christian haters like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Why not build nukes, flaunt your anti-Semitism, and call the Bush Administration’s bluff if you’re expecting the end of the world? The scary part is that U.S. President Bush shares this apocalyptic nightmare himself. Those close to him have reported that he sees himself as a war president acting with the explicit approval of God. In his book Bush at War Bob Woodward quotes Bush as saying, “We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of this great nation.” Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas reported that Bush told him this:

“God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam Hussein, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.”

I think what the world needs right about now are wise leaders who rely on reason and the principles of humanism. We can do without such make-believe consultations with an imaginary God that promises wars and final judgments on those of different or no faith.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12459891984373393444 Taner Edis

    Ok, this is going to sound pedantic, but I have to point something out. “The Hidden Imam is an eschatological figure in Islam” is roughly like saying “the Rapture is an eschatological event in Christianity.” Well, the Rapture thing is true, but only for one (globally speaking) minority version of Christianity. The messianic Hidden Imam figure is a belief exclusive to Twelver Shia Islam, which is dominant in Iran but is the faith of less than 10% of Muslims worldwide. (Many other Muslims have just as crazy end-time beliefs, but that’s another matter.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14558495391350708810 James Still

    Thanks for the correction Taner. I suppose we should now ask how it is that men from minority radical versions of their respective faiths got to be in charge of their countries. :)


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